In our last post, we introduced Pilates, which is an excellent way to strengthen the muscles around your spine, improve flexibility, and eliminate imbalances in your posture. Today let’s see how you can start a Pilates program, and how Pilates differs from yoga. First though, a few Pilates myths:
1) Pilates can help you lose weight.
Pilates is not an aerobic exercise program, and it doesn’t burn many calories. Studies have demonstrated no significant weight loss following Pilates, so if you want to lose weight through exercise, add another activity such as bike riding, running, or fast walking.
2) Pilates is only good for women.
Perhaps because Pilates doesn’t involve heavy weights, it is thought more appropriate for women, but men suffer just as much from flexibility and posture issues, and can benefit greatly from Pilates. Plenty of smart male athletes, like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and David Beckham are devotees. Women do however benefit in a way that men do not, as Pilates improves the pelvic muscles used in childbearing and for urinary control.
3) You need specialized equipment.
It is nice to have access to a Pilates studio with specialized equipment that utilizes large springs, bars, and pulleys, but many of the movements can be performed on a mat if you don’t have that available.
4) Pilates will make you much stronger.
Pilates will make your abdominal, pelvic, and lower back areas stronger but for overall body strength, you need to stress your arms, shoulders, and legs in different ways. You might mix Pilates with weight training two or three times a week for overall body strength.
You can find books and videos on Pilates, but it is best to find a qualified teacher to make sure you are doing it correctly. Piilates is not “intuitive” and probably very different from what you have done in the past. Training at a specialized Pilates studio is ideal, but if you can’t afford individual instruction, look for small group lessons, and many gyms now offer classes that may be more affordable.
Whether you do Pilates in a gym or in a specialized studio, the core principles of Pilates are the same: centering (focusing on the core of your body), concentration (paying close attention to each muscle used during stretching and contracting), control and flow (doing each movement with maximal control and fluidity), precision (being aware of your exact movements and positioning, how one body part is aligned with the other parts), and breathing (opening your lungs and breathing deeply and correctly greatly improves your performance).
Some people wonder about the differences between Pilates and yoga. Yoga improves the flexibility of your entire body, and is better for improving total body strength. And, depending on the style you use, yoga can be more of an intensive calorie-burning workout. Pilates will do more to strengthen your core and abdomen than yoga, and likely will better improve any asymmetries in your posture.
Pilates has been around for almost one hundred years, and is constantly growing in popularity. It is not a fad, but a great way to improve the strength and flexibility of your body’s core. If you can combine it with aerobics and weight training, you can maximize your physical condition and appearance.
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